Saturday, January 2, 2010

NZ Outdoor Guiding Industry Failing To Manage Risks Properly

A reporter writing for the New Zealand Herald newspaper has used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain a report into the death of Anton Wopereis on New Year's Day 2008.

Mr Wopereis, aged 54, was an an internationally qualified guide contracted to Aspiring Guides. He died after falling from the Summit Rocks of Mt Cook when a slab of snow and ice collapsed. He and his client were attached by a 60m rope to an anchor fixed to the mountainside.

For an unknown reason he chose to climb above the anchor without asking his client to belay him, if he had have done this he wouldn't have fallen for the full 60 metre rope length before coming to rest below his client. The absence of work safety assessment detailing where and where there was a need to belay seemed to be central to the criticism made in the report. According to Martin Jonston's article in the Herald:
"the report says, the likelihood of serious harm is "factored in" by the industry as part of an approach based on risk management. This "tacit failure" to fully comply with the Health and Safety in Employment Act is a "lost opportunity" for the industry.

But guides say eliminating all the hazards would kill the industry.
"There needs to be recognition that there is inherent risk in adventure tourism, and managing those risks as opposed to trying to eliminate them," said Aspiring Guides' chief guide, Whitney Thurlow.
"It's easy to eliminate them totally and not go. But we choose to go; we choose to put ourselves in harm's way...
The report ... highlights the conflict between the requirement for employers and the self-employed to take all practicable steps to prevent harm - and the risks that are part of the attraction of adventure activities such as mountaineering.
A department spokesman said this issue would be covered by the review of adventure and outdoor tourism ordered by Prime Minister John Key and scheduled to report by March 31."
Our readers will remember that this report has already been pushed back by two months because of what looked like a lack of 'buy-in' by the adventure tourism industry, most of whom appear to be incredibly resistant to change, despite 7 prosecutions being brought during 2009 for deaths and injuries within the industry. As far as we are aware every company that has been prosecuted has 'escaped' with a fine and all are still trading, some have even announced expansion plans. No-one has yet served time for corporate manslaughter.

Why should they change? the money is still rolling in even though people are being killed and injured.

And so long as the present regulatory system persists we forecast that the situation will not change. Adventure tourism brings billions of dollars into the New Zealand economy every year and no-one wants to risk upsetting that applecart. But nobody seems to be asking will more visitors will come if the industry is considered to be safer?. There is an lost opportunity here for NZ to lead the world in safe and exciting adventure tourism.

Three outcomes we'd like to see from the report are
  • Better protection of employees and the public through by more comprehensive and well managed risk control strategies, bench marked against international standards. These procedures should  be reviewed regularly to ensure they're effective.
  • Less reliance on ACC to pick up the tab and more muscle exerted by insurance companies on higher risk activities
  • Heavier penalties for operators who fail to manage risks properly, including closing down operators who are considered to be unsafe and imposing manslaughter charges where applicable. Revenue raised through fines should be returned to the industry to further improve safety standards.
See also: 
Emily Jordans father writes to John Key: Safety regulations are 'third world'
Alpine dangers easy to overlook - Mount Cook's death toll well over 200 climbers and trampers (Feb 2007)

Today's posts - click here

Friday, January 1, 2010

Migrant Stories - Making Ends Meet

Continuing our series of Migrant Stories. This well written post was published on an on-line immigration support forum. It's a not unusual example of how many skilled migrants from Western countries (in this case Britain) find life in New Zealand's low wage/high house price economy a struggle, despite their very best efforts they cannot find a way to make ends meet.

"Below Rock Bottom
I always thought reaching "rock bottom" was the lowest point. Not so. I know this as I am currently sitting in the place that is below the rock. And its not pleasant.

Contradictory as it may sound, I love New Zealand although it has proved to be big money sucking leach. I scrimp, I juggle, I do all the cost-cutting things I can to try and make ends meet and I usually try and keep a fairly positive outlook, count my blessings, tell myself it can only get better and am grateful for what we do have. But today Positive has taken a well earned vacation and has left Reality and Hardship for me to babysit. They are both a real pain, hard work during the day, refuse to sleep at night and, as it turns out, they cry a lot. They play mean games and are generally not nice to be around.

Today Reality and Hardship decided we should play the money game. They won and as a result I'm over my overdraft limit and I've nothing to buy food with. The kids are on school holidays and I've no money for petrol to take them anywhere, no money to even get stuff for a basic picnic so's we could just walk or bike somewhere and the pantry is looking fairly bare. I wish Positive was here - she would say, well look on the bright side - at least you can give the shelves a good clean now they're empty, eh?

I've just come off the phone to the pension company. My last chance saloon. Apparently it's where Hardship hangs out a lot. They can send me a form so I can claim Hardship resides with me and possibly release some of my money - for a 55% penalty (not having 5 tax years clear of UK).

Not the best start to the new year. I thought after having a diabolical 2009 things could only get better. However, as I type I'm nursing Hope who is on her deathbed and I've had no word from Positive to say when she might be returning."

Today's posts - click here

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Armed Robbery At Bellbird Arms Tavern

There has been another armed robbery in New Zealand, this time at a pub in Manurewa, South Auckland.

Three armed men burst in to the Bellbird Arms Tavern at 12.20pm yesterday and threatened staff with a sawn-off shot gun, they are thought to have got away with $16,000 - $20,000.

3News reported that the pub manager was worried for his customers' safety:
"Tavern manager Brian McKinnon told Radio New Zealand there were about 15 customers in the bar at the time of the robbery. He was worried a customer might "do something stupid" like run at the robbers, and get hurt. Staff were trained to cope with these incidents and Mr McKinnon said he was less concerned for his own safety."

View Larger Map of Street view Bellbird Arms Tavern
 It's a despicable crime, everyone involved must have been quite shaken, we hope they recover from their ordeal soon.

There have been a number of similar incidents in clubs, dairies, supermarkets, fast food restaurants, banks, a brothel and even a hairdressers (Rodney Wayne's in Takapuna) in which members of the public have been put at risk. It can only be a matter of time before a bystander is killed or seriously injured.

Violent armed robberies seem to be on the increase in New Zealand. In 2008 there were 1,160 recorded aggravated robberies (an average of more than 3 a day) of those 163 were firearm related and 223 used a stabbing or cutting weapon.

We're not sure what the official figures will be for this year but we've been keeping a tally of incidents that have affected commercial operations (i.e. not on domestic premises, street robberies, muggings, tourist hold-ups etc.) and which were reported to the press, the results have shocked us. Not only because there have been so many (almost 200) but also because they're happening all over New Zealand, from Invercargill to Kaitaia, not just in the more deprived and densely populated inner city areas.

What's worse, based on last years official figures, it looks like only a fraction of these robberies are being reported in the press so the true picture may be even worse. We suspect that many hold-ups in small dairies, service stations and liquor stores just don't get reported.

The list may been found here, or by clicking on the 'Armed Robberies' tab above.

Today's posts - click here

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Zealand Nationals Arrested In India On Drugs Charges

Two NZ nationals have been arrested in India for being in possession of 96g of charas (hashish or cannabis) According to reports made to the NZ press the couple, Allan Bruce Mills and his girlfriend Peta Sim Clair, have refused all offers of assistance from the NZ embassy.  Really? when one considers the stiff penalties for drug offences in India we think most New Zealanders abroad would be looking for every bit of help they could muster. Why refuse help, it just doesn't make sense. Surely the plight of people like 'banged up abroad' drugs carrier Schapelle Corby can't be far from their minds?

The Tribune India shed a bit more light on the story by reporting:
"Two New Zealand nationals, including a woman, have been arrested for possessing charas, the police said yesterday. Allan Bruce Mills and his girlfriend Peta Sim Clair were arrested from Bhuntar, near here, on Thursday and 96 gm of charas was recovered from their possession, Superintendent of Police KK Indoria said.

He said the couple was also carrying foreign currency worth Rs 22 lakh. They have been booked under the NDPS Act.

“The New Zealand Embassy in New Delhi has been informed about their arrest,” the police official added.

In recent years, the Kullu valley has gained notoriety as a drug haven.

According to the police, the foreigners are providing high-yield variety cannabis seeds imported from Holland and Russia to farmers for planting in various high-altitude areas like Malana, Bhelang, Melandar, Magic and Kutlah in the Kullu valley as well as the Chauhar and Seraj valleys in Mandi district."
The couple are now out on bail and we're left guessing as to why they were arrested in the first place.

New Zealand has a rep for being the country with the highest levels of cannabis use.

Today's posts - click here

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Another Adventure Tourism Death Results In Prosecution. Tor Prestmo

 Foto: Gina Hindseth
Whilst the review of the Adventure Tourism industry is put on a back burner, until the busy summer season has passed its peak, a river rafting company has been prosecuted in connection with the death of Norwegian trainee guide Tor Prestmo, age 24.

This appeared on Voxy on 23 December 2009

Wellington, Dec 23 NZPA -
"A Manawatu river rafting company has been found guilty of failing to ensure the safety of a trainee guide who drowned when the raft he was on flipped on the Rangitikei River.

Tor Prestmo, 24, from Norway, drowned in October 2007 when he was swept under water after a collision between two rafts on a grade five rapid on the river.

The Maritime New Zealand laid 11 charges against River Valley Ventures Ltd, its director Brian Leadson Megaw and rafting manager Koryn John Gould under the Health and Safety in Employment Act.

In a ruling released today, Judge Gregory Ross convicted the company on three charges relating to failing to ensure the safety of its employees, and failing to ensure no hazards arose in the workplace that could harm people.

Judge Ross found two charges of being in control of the company at the time of the incident, and failing to take practical steps to ensure no hazards arose for employees faced by Mr Megaw were proved.

Mr Gould was found guilty of one charge of failing to ensure Mr Prestmo's safety.
But Judge Ross said he would not enter a conviction against Mr Megaw or Mr Gould until he had heard from their counsel at sentencing.

On the day of the incident Mr Prestmo became wedged behind a rock, one metre under the surface. He had been training with tourism operator River Valley Ventures for three weeks at the time of the accident.

Three other guides and 10 passengers survived the collision and were rescued. The company, Mr Megaw and Mr Gould pleaded not guilty in Taihape District Court to the charges.

During the hearing, crown prosecutor Ben Vanderkolk said the company had neglected standard operating procedures, including safety briefings and assessment of clients' abilities.

Judge Ross said the company's involvement with the river should have been intimate and detailed and it should have identified hazards. "Every physical and geographical feature is identified, marked on maps, named and known."

The judge suggested it would have been practical for the company to have had a qualified guide in the raft with Mr Prestmo."
As far as we are aware this is the 8th prosecution notified this year relating to deaths or injuries sustained in adventure tourism activities in NZ, the others include
  • Paul Woods - A British general surgeon at Dunedin Hospital died when the jet boat he was a passenger in flipped after hitting a gravel bank in the Matukituki River. His partner Dr Leanne Tonney and her brother Dave were injured in the crash. The boat was privately owned.
  • Yan Wang - A Chinese tourist died when the jet boat she was a passenger in flipped at the confluence of the Shotover and Kawarau rivers. The company involved was 'Kawarau Jet'. 7 other people were injured.
  • Sarah Katie Bond - A British tourist who died from her injuries during a quad bike trek run by 'Waitomo Big Red' 30km west of Waitomo Caves last August.
  • Emily Jordan - A British tourist who drowned whilst riverboarding with 'Mad Dog River Boarding' on the Kawarau river. The company was fined NZ$66,000. (US$46,000)
  • Catherine Peters - A New Zealand university student who died from her injuries after falling from the Ballance Bridge Swing.
  • Six students and a teacher - Died in a canyoning exercise with the Sir Edmund Hilary Outdoor Centre, the centre was fined NZ$44,000.
  • Rosemary Berry, a semi retired Australian tourist broke an arm and shoulder whilst skiing and sustained other injuries after she fell over an metal track left in the snow at the Cardrona Ski Resort. The company subsequently tried to appeal against its conviction of fines and costs totalling almost $60,000.
We hope that the review doesn't take too long and that the report's recommendations are implemented swiftly as soon as it is published.

See also other drowning deaths on the Rangitikei River
    Today's posts - click here


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